This post collects all of our weekend reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for April 18-19, 2020. You can find the latest here. Our original play-by-play continues below.
4:20 p.m. — The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 grows again
After several days of dropping, the number of Coloradans currently hospitalized for COVID-19 grew again to 874, according to data posted by the state Department of Public Health and the Environment. That includes 71 percent of Colorado’s facilities. Those same data indicate 215 people have been discharged or transferred after their condition improved.
Eighteen of the state’s facilities anticipate a shortage of protective equipment, three anticipate staffing shortages and two anticipate a shortage of ICU beds. Those numbers have held relatively steady or dropped slightly over the past week.
In total, 9,730 people in Colorado have been diagnosed with the disease and 422 have died, an increase of 11 from Saturday’s report.The state reports that 1,961 tests were conducted on Saturday, an increase over previous days. Most of that came from labs other than the state, including commercial labs.
— Kate Schimel
2:30 p.m. — CDOT tries to stop backcountry skiing by blocking parking
Matt Kroschel of CBS Denver reports that the Colorado Department of Transportation is installing barricades around Loveland Pass, an effort meant to deter backcountry skiers and snowboarders.
While the snow barricades are meant to keep cars out, it appears they may have trapped a few inside.
— Francie Swidler
1 p.m. — The protest is in full swing now.
We'll be following the protest action here — there are now many more people.
— Dave Burdick
12:40 p.m. — It's on.
At the Capitol, there are a couple of groups of 20-30 people starting to congregate -- maybe around 100 in total so far, but still filing in. Additionally, cars are driving by honking, some trailing American flags.
This is part of an organized protest against the governor’s stay-at-home order. One sign, for example, reads “Unemployment takes lives, too.”
The protest was originally organized for 1 p.m. and another for 2 p.m., so we’ll likely see the group grow in size still.
— Taylor Allen
10:45 a.m. — "Operation Gridlock Denver" demonstration is set for today — but will it happen?
As of Friday night, nearly 800 people had RSVP'd to a Facebook event encouraging demonstrators to converge on downtown Denver Sunday and protest Gov. Polis' stay-at-home order.
But by Saturday afternoon, the Facebook event had either been removed or made private.
City officials say they're aware of the planned gathering but declined to say whether Denver police will be adding additional patrols in the area.
— Francie Swidler
9:51 a.m. — Vail pioneer Bob Lazier dies at 81
Vail pioneer Bob Lazier spent 22 days in the hospital fighting COVID-19 before dying at 81 on Saturday, according to Vail Daily.
Lazier is the seventh Eagle County resident to die from the virus, a county official confirmed Saturday night, the Daily reports.
He was a race car driver, entrepreneur, hotelier and builder. He became one of Vail’s first major contractors, building 16 commercial properties in 17 years.
— Alison Borden
6:40 a.m. — RTD's reduced service plan effective today.
RTD's COVID-19 service plan is officially in place. Dozens of routes have been modified and significantly cut back amid the pandemic.
RTD’s ridership is down 70 percent since early March due to the shuttering of non-essential businesses and a state stay-at-home order. For people that still take the bus, RTD has already instituted rear-door boarding and eliminated fares in order to keep drivers and passengers as far apart as possible.
It also adopted new guidelines on maintaining social distance on public transit. Buses are now capped at 15 passengers, 20 passengers for larger buses and 30 passengers for train cars.
— Alison Borden
6:45 p.m. — Weekly deaths in Colorado reflect the virus's impact
The coronavirus is leaving a historic mark on Colorado.
For the first time since at least 1975, Colorado had more than 900 deaths in a single week.
The number occurred in the last week of March, ending April 4, when the state had 901 people die.
And that number is likely to grow as more counties report their death certificates to the state.
The state tracks the number of death certificates issued in Colorado each week and, since 2014, the state averaged about 750 deaths per week during this part of the year.
The last week of March may not hold the unwanted record for long. The following week -- April 5 through April 11th -- had 896 deaths statewide, and that number is also likely to grow as more reports are received.
Kirk Bol, manager of the Vital Statistics program at the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment said the high numbers are “perhaps not surprising in part due to the state’s rapid population and the state’s aging."
But, he added, “COVID-19 has certainly played a role in the higher numbers in recent weeks.”
More than 400 people have died statewide from complications of COVID-19.
The state only has readily available statistics going back to 1975, but given Colorado’s population increase in recent years, it is possible that these death numbers are all-time highs for Colorado.
At the height of the 1918-19 flu pandemic, about 220 people were dying each week from the disease, but the state’s population was under 1 million at the time, making it unlikely that even those flu deaths brought weekly deaths above 900.
— Andrea Dukakis
4:15 p.m. — Number of Coloradans hospitalized with COVID-19 drops
The number of Coloradans hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19 fell Saturday for the fourth consecutive day.
Data posted by the state Department of Public Health and the Environment, and collected from 92 percent of the state's hospitals, shows that there are 842 people in the hospital, down from 858 on Friday and the smallest number since April 13 when 87 percent of hospitals were reporting their patient populations daily.
The consecutive drops in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, is occurring even as the number of hospitals reporting has grown.
The state nonetheless crossed another grim marker as reported deaths rose from 391 Friday to 411 on Saturday, an increase of 20.
The number of test results reported rose by just 1,299, to 44,606 since the pandemic arrived in Colorado. That daily number is just 23 tests in a day per 100,000 residents, though some negative test results may not be included. Experts at the Harvard Institute for Global Health suggest states need to be capable of performing 152 tests per 100,000 residents each day before they can safely re-open the economy. That level would enable epidemiologists to quickly identify new outbreaks and control them before they spread.
— Chuck Murphy
3:42 p.m. — Eagle County wants to get out of Colorado's stay-at-home order
Eagle County, which includes Vail, has requested an exemption from parts of Colorado's statewide stay-at-home order. A state spokesperson confirmed it's the first time the state has received such a request during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter dated April 16, 2020, the county asserts, “The conditions within Eagle County are significantly improving and do not warrant all the restrictions within the current State Orders.”
It’s a big about-face for the county, which was an early hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado. Just a month ago, Vail Health’s CEO warned of the virus, “It’s everywhere here.”
In an email, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said, "It is possible for jurisdictions to get exempted from all or parts of the Executive Orders." The email confirmed the state has received Eagle County's request, and a statement from CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan added, "We are considering this request in the context of both the local conditions and our statewide disease control response and we will share our decision soon."
Eagle County says it’s met four crucial criteria to reopen: a sustained reduction in cases for 14 days; hospitals that can handle everyone who gets sick; the ability to test people quickly; and the ability to monitor for outbreaks using contact tracing.
Eagle County would like to be able to permit gatherings of up to 10 people, and to allow some non-essential businesses to open on the condition that they put in protocols to protect employees’ health and continue to encourage social distancing.
The letter also notes that Eagle County plans to “permit the opening of outdoor recreation facilities.”
As we note below, Gov. Jared Polis has indicated he plans to end the stay-at-home order next Sunday, April 26.
— Rachel Estabrook
1:50 p.m. — It's probably safe to at least circle April 27 on your calendar
It's certainly not official, but Gov. Jared Polis took to Twitter Saturday to make it pretty clear that his stay-at-home order is not likely to be extended beyond April 26. Modified maybe, but not extended in its current form.
Polis made the statement while re-tweeting a story about the economic damage being wrought by the coronavirus in Los Angeles. And it may serve to get Polis out ahead of a planned Sunday protest in Denver demanding that he re-open the state's economy.
Beyond just the tweet, Polis has repeatedly indicated this week that an announcement might be forthcoming on Monday about the timetable for a gradual return to normal, at least on a state level.
— Chuck Murphy
11:04 a.m. — Watch the vice president live in Colorado Springs
Nearly 1,000 senior cadets are set to graduate today from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They will do so without family and friends in attendance at the ceremony, due to social distancing restrictions.
Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to address the seniors in person. He had originally planned to appear via video, but changed plans earlier this week.
— Rachel Estabrook
9:10 a.m. — Denver's preparing for months of social distancing
Get used to the restrictions in Denver's stay-at-home order.
Top city officials met this week and indicated social distancing measures will stay in place longer than the overarching order, which is set to expire April 30. Perhaps much longer.
“There was broad recognition around the room that coronavirus and its challenges won’t end with 2020,” Dr. Bill Burman, director of Denver Public Health, told the Denver Post's Conrad Swanson.
The city wants to allow the economy to kick back into gear, but needs to balance that with the need to keep new cases from spiking. So rather than a full lifting of the stay-at-home order, expect it to be slowly modified.
The statewide stay-at-home order is set to expire April 26, and Gov. Jared Polis is expected to provide details the next phase of the state's plan next week.
— Nathaniel Minor
9:00 a.m. — Air Force Thunderbirds will put on a show for the Front Range today to honor caregivers, academy grads
With air shows across the country canceled by the pandemic, the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team find themselves with a little time on their hands and some gratitude for healthcare workers in their hearts, so they will take the long way home after flying over the Air Force Academy graduation ceremonies.
After passing over the academy near the end of the 11 a.m. ceremony, the jets will head north over the plains, then pass over Greeley and Windsor around 12:50 p.m.
From there, the formation will fly over Fort Collins, then turn south, roughly following I-25 while flying over major medical facilities to thank frontline health care workers, reaching Longmont around 1 p.m.
After a loop over Boulder, they spend the next 30 minutes on a zig-zag east and west over Westminster, Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, Denver and Aurora before heading back southwest over Littleton and Centennial, then down to Colorado Springs after 1:35 p.m. and out of the area by 1:50 p.m.
The six F-16 jets of the Thunderbirds that will make the full tour, formally known as the Air Force Aerial Demonstration Squadron, will have to refuel in mid-air to complete the trip, which will be accomplished with a KC-135 tanker from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan.
Residents are encouraged to step out of their homes to see the jets, but asked not to congregate or travel anywhere to see them. Residents of central Denver should plan to look to the south for the Thunderbirds when they pass through around 1:20 p.m. (Don't worry, you'll probably hear them in advance).
— Chuck Murphy
8:00 a.m. — State political parties will hold state assemblies today - and one of them is not happy about it
Because of the ban on large public gatherings, Colorado’s Republicans and Democrats are taking their conventions online this year.
The GOP is using an application called txt2vote and will give delegates from 9am Saturday through midnight Monday to cast their votes. The Democrats will email ballots to its delegates. Both parties plan to stream proceedings today, with details on their websites.
In a tweet urging supporters to tune in, GOP chair Ken Buck blamed Gov. Jared Polis for preventing the party from gathering in person. “Thanks to Governor Jared Polis and his band of merry Marxists, we are going to be holding our Republican state assembly online this year,” Buck said.
While the Republican party doesn’t have any high-profile primaries this year, the convention will shape the party platform, decide national committee members, and choose the delegation that goes to the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August.
For Democrats, the convention will set the ballot for the US Senate primary in June. Former governor John Hickenlooper has already secured a spot through the petition process. He will almost certainly be joined there by former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who won precinct caucuses by a wide margin. Two other candidates, Stephany Rose Spaulding and Erik Underwood, are also hoping to cross the 30 percent support threshold needed to qualify.
Democrats will also be electing delegates to the DNC and other party roles.
— Megan Verlee
7:55 a.m. — Stay at home protests set for Saturday, Sunday
A group that believes the governor has gone too far in his actions to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic says it will protest at the state capitol at 1pm on Sunday.
Demonstration organizers are asking that participants remain in their cars and practice social distancing as they drive around the building. The group, “ReOpen Colorado,” says COVID-19 is a public health “concern,” but “The stay-at-home order is strangling businesses, draining savings, and creating a series of unintended consequences that are worse than the virus.”
On Saturday, a different group will host a “Rally to ReOpen Colorado - Cruisin’ Style” at noon on North Avenue in Grand Junction. The main organizer, JJ Fletcher, is a candidate for Mesa County Commissioner. His opponent, incumbent Rose Pugliese, recently tweeted that, based the low number of hospitalizations in Mesa County and the lack of deaths so far “It’s time for our community to think about how we balance public health and re-opening businesses.”
— Megan Verlee